Last month we had the privilege of hosting 20 HR leaders from across the United States at Dolby’s office in San Francisco. Our goal was to guide the group through the what and the how of sustainable EX improvement. Around the room, the objective for many was much the same; to make progress in their EX “journey”, listen to the experiences of other companies, and to better connect EX efforts to business value. What we’ll discuss further is the key activity in achieving business value; the ability to measure the impact of EX and using that data to iteratively improve. As context, we’ve spent the last two and a half years working on how to manage EX in large scale companies and truly understand the importance of EX. In a recent study we conducted alongside the HR Congress (see graphic 1); we found that while EX is a priority for Chief HR Officers, as an HR function we don’t have a clear plan on how to execute on it. Graphic 1: State of EX Survey We acknowledge that EX is important but before we decide on a starting point for our transformation, we need to be clear on what EX is, how to scale it and improve it. We see that the road to EX impact in large, complex organizations is less about perfecting the three capabilities of the EX methodology (Design, Measurement, HR / cross-functional operational model) and more about connecting these components together effectively through an iterative methodology to manage EX at scale. If you execute on this well then it will drive business value. Without iteration EX could be just another isolated “HR initiative”, precisely the kind that the profession is trying to move away from. Many survey vendors can tell you what EX feels like in the words of your employees, what we’re focused on here are the pitfalls you may encounter when intentionally creating that feeling AT SCALE. Here’s an example from a client which highlights the opportunity to improve an experience at scale. An individual changed role and teams within the same company, the manager assumed the employee would integrate into the new team given tenure in the organization and so didn’t make introductions to new colleagues. It left the person feeling isolated, awkward and frustrated with the manager. This is an example of a painful experience sitting within a journey (job change) that HR is responsible for but the touchpoint itself (introduction to colleagues) is owned by the manager. So back to scalability, if HR knows “introduction to colleagues” is an important touchpoint for employees within the “role change” journey then how can you improve it consistently across the business? Based on several years’ experience I wanted to share challenges that we’ve seen unstick the best of intentions in EX. In our San Francisco event we broke down these pitfalls and co-created some solutions to address them:
1. Lack of leadership buy-in to your EX projectDefined problem: We can’t see how to connect EX to business value; business leadership are not convinced that improvement in experience will lead to productivity improvement and reduced HR costs (see Graphic 2 for business value model). We lack the data to support our case for investment upfront and are unsure who to approach for sponsorship. Solutions: caveat here, this depends on your role and reach in HR but we made the assumption that “we” are leading Employee Experience.
- Start small with your initial journey/touchpoint improvement- don’t boil the ocean with declarations of improving all EX- this will only disappoint because expectations will be too high from leadership and employees. Rather, look for an opportunity, a business leader feeling some talent “pain” and see how taking a customer first, outside-in view of the problem could help. This is your path of least resistance with maximum impact and it will gain momentum and interest from other business leaders when the changes are measured and demonstrate an improved experience.
- Start small with your financial investment- Again, if you go big in terms of what you want to tackle, you’ll require more business sponsorship and potential budget. It will also require the initiative to have a clearer link to business value data which could be challenging at the very start.
2. Business buy-in to take action in EX, but unsure what to prioritizeDefined problem: You’re excited, YES- you have support to move forward with an EX project! BUT you will need to demonstrate results. How do we align resources, what are the HR priorities? How do we define the roadmap of journeys to tackle and the HR infrastructure required? What success measures do we use? Solutions:
- Review the HR strategy and subsequently the most critical employee journeys (Graphic 3)
- Identify from those journeys which ones are high impact and low complexity, see example in Graphic 4. This will feed into your road map of journeys to work on in the future.
- Per the previous section prepare a business case for the responsible leader of that journey to also solidify sponsorship and start small.
- Define success, what do we want to change and impact before heading into the project…more to come on measurement.
3. Hard to scale design thinking effortsDefined Problem:
- HR teams are being rightly ambitious in applying design thinking principles to EX. Looking back at Graphic 3, some employee journeys have ~50 touchpoints so if you aim to address the full journey at once you’re setting expectations too high.
- In addition, there can be a lack of understanding as to how to operationalize prototypes coming out of design thinking because it requires collaboration between cross-functional siloed teams with competing priorities. The way to drive this change in operating model is to measure the impact of these prototypes.
- Prioritize the critical touchpoints, which may be either effortless moments or ‘moments of truth’ that are broken and select those that will have the most impact on the experience for your design thinking workshop. Be intentional about how you want them to feel (Graphic 5).
- Set expectations with your cross functional teams because remember almost half of touchpoints are NOT owned by HR. This means it is even more important to set realistic expectations around what you can change and at what pace. Remember the idea of design thinking and TI People’s EX methodology is to iteratively improve, you will not get to the perfect solution from the outset. But, if you have measurement data, you’re also able to hold your partner teams accountable to improvement.
4. Journey design and measurement are disconnectedDefined problem: Design thinking, as discussed, is a key part of improving experiences for your employees. We can learn from customer-facing teams’ approach to CX measurement which is to understand satisfaction at specific touchpoints. That data is then used to iterate on the design of the experience, you know what is working and what is not. Back to HR; very often, impact from ambitious EX projects and design thinking workshops is lost because the improvement is not seen, it’s not measured. Therefore, it is impossible to know if the prototypes you worked hard to build have had a positive impact on experience. Solutions:
- Map current state journey with the moments of truth clearly defined, base this on persona (key talent segment) feedback
- Deploy direct measurement at critical touchpoints which use just ONE customer satisfaction question with room for additional feedback from your employees (Graphic 6). This enables timely resolution and tracking of improvements in real time.
- Deploy passive listening at key moments to compliment direct surveys. At TI People we are currently co-creating a solution to passively listen to touch point experience via existing internal company and external data sources.
- Communicate the quick wins you are implementing with your employees and how you will continue to iterate based on their feedback.